Social Conformity: Lecture Objectives • Discuss the issue of “power to the people” in a democracy. • Describe the Asch experiment and discuss when and why conformity occurs • State what is meant by the “real managers” problem.
Power of the people: Founders vs. populism • The “people” in a democracy can be a source of power – by their votes, support for candidates, and volunteer activities. • Populism see “power to the people” as a good thing • The founders perceived “power to the people” as a potential threat to democracy • Autocracies control people via totalism: manipulate the masses by information control and appeals to granfalloon among other tactics
Populism • Populism embraced by left and right • Assumptions • Collective wisdom of the people is better than expertise; the “people” know best. • The “people” share the same view of the issues. • The “people” united can never be defeated.
Do the “people” know best? • Wisdom of crowds: The average judgment of many people is better than the judgment of any given person over time • Ox weight and jelly bean estimate • Bookies and points spreads • Most investors under perform the stock market average
Limitations of the people and knowledge • Lack of diversity of knowledge in the group (converge on wrong solution) • Conformity pressures such as groupthink • Lack of independence in judgment (imitation of others) • Centralized information • Collusion of members
Do the “people” share the same view of the issues? • False consensus effect: use one’s attitude to estimate the attitudes of others; generally, people believe that others share their attitudes and overestimate the extend of agreement • Naïve realism: everyone else shares my construal of the world (my facts and values about reality); opposite of realistic empathy
Do the “people” share the same view of the issues? • Debate among scholars: • What is public opinion (single or multiple perspectives)? • What is the common good (or is there such a thing)? • Naïve realism and false consensus can be used by demagogues to manipulate opinion via “glittering generalities.”
If the “people” are united can they be defeated in American democracy? • Generally, when a consensus emerges in American public opinion, public policy changes to reflect that consensus • Page & Shapiro (1983) looked at 357 cases between 1935 & 1979 where public opinion changed by 6% or more on an issue • Within a year in 66% of the cases, public policy changed to reflect that opinion • For large swings (over 20%) and those involving a majority, it was almost 100% and was 100% after a 4 year lag.
Limitations on the people united • The people divided do not have the same effect • Large swings at a minority level (say, a change from 5 to 25%) do not generally affect policy • Page & Shapiro findings apply only to highly visible issues (not less visible issues where people do not generally have an opinion); such cases are more likely to be influenced by interest groups and others who have a direct stake in the issue. • But yet, most constituents support their earmarks, but not the earmarks of others.
The Founders’ Fear • The Founders’ feared that the people could • turn into the mob and infringe on the rights of others • be ill-informed and make poor choices • They believed as Machiavelli did that a republic would be lost if its citizens became: • Lazy (low involvement persuasion) • Unfit (ignorant, lacking in knowledge and virtue) • Corrupt (promoting the interests of the few over the many) • Envious of true leadership; mislead by the envious
Checks and balances on the people • Original checks (no longer effective): • Restricted vote • Electoral college • Non-direct election of Senators • Current checks • Senate vs. House • Judicial review (Marbury v. Madison) • 14th amendment requiring equal protection under the law
Potential problems with “power to the people” • Social Conformity • “Real Managers” (social approval instead of merit) • Demagogues • Lippmann problem: stereotypes and lack of knowledge of the people leads to poor decision making • Granfalloon (social identities)
Social Conformity: Asch Experiment • Asch believed that people would not conform if there was objective reality. • He created an objective reality (line lengths) that no one could deny as true. • Show Dateline NBC Asch experiment
Asch: Results • 107 replications plus Dateline find: • 55% of the subjects conform on at least one trial; conformity on 35% of the trials
Asch: variations • The following decrease conformity: • An ally giving the same answer • Another person giving a different wrong answer than the group • (dissent breaks unanimity) • Commitment before conformity information • Private as opposed to public report
Asch: variations • The following increase conformity • Uncertainty about one’s place in the group, especially when group is attractive • Group members who are: • Expert • Important and attractive • Similar to the target
Why does conformity occur? • Social consensus invokes two (and sometimes three) processes: • Information: we look to others to see what is the right thing to do; if others are doing it, it must be right (social proof) • Normative: going against the group is difficult; “don’t want to be different anymore” (social pressure) • Social identity (granfalloon): membership in the group takes on meaning for the individual
Social proof • Milgram passerby experiment • Donors give more after seeing a list of donors giving $1.45 (on average) compared to 35 cents (Blake et al. 1955) • More likely to give blood after seeing a list of others agreeing to give (Reingen, 1982) • Polling data/horse-race coverage as social proof (bandwagon and campaign donation) • Shills in cons • False testimonials in advertising
Information & Social Proof • When everyone agrees (social proof) it serves as information control – only one point of view comes to create reality • Show Candid Camera at the airport
Information control • Information can be censored and centralized. • Information can also be self-selected (agreeable information via dissonance reduction) resulting in biased information. • Internet is decentralized but increasingly segmented by user attitudes
Social proof: individual response • Subject in Dateline experiment: “When I see that others are agreeing, I use this as a cue to start asking why and to think that they might be wrong.”
Social pressure • Oscar Meyer example
Social pressure • What is happening in the Oscar Meyer commercial? • Information – everyone things these hotdogs are great • Social pressure • Deviant receives sanctions (glares from the other kids and a lousy future assignment)
What happens when someone is a deviant? • Show Stan Schachter experiment
What happens when someone is a deviant? • In Schachter experiment: • Deviant received initial attention • Deviant was ultimately rejected (ostracized from the group)
What is it liked to be ostracized from the group? • Show Kip Williams experiment
What does it feel like to be ostracized? • Painful • The threat of ostracism and the withdrawal of social approval is a major factor in why social consensus induces social pressures.
Social pressure: Individual responses • Do not underestimate the power of social pressure. • Most people believe that they can stand up to the group; most research studies find that they can’t. • Best coping response: Get out of the situation and think what is the best the response to make.
The inherent drama of the Asch experiment • The Asch experiment pits two social motives against each other: • The desire to be right vs. the desire to be approved by others • Merit vs. loyalty • Achievement vs. social approval
Real Managers: Successful and effective • Fred Luthans et al. collected data on 457 middle managers in multiple organizations • Managerial activities: planning, decision making, communication, motivating employees, managing conflict, networking (socializing, politicking, interacting with one’s boss) • Success: rate of promotion • Effectiveness: organization productivity and quality of performance; subordinate satisfaction and commitment to work
Real managers results • Managers were either successful or effective; less than 10% were both • Successful managers (ones receiving promotions): high levels of networking, socializing, and politicking; pleasing superiors • Willy Loman’s “well liked.” • Effective managers (ones who got things done): high levels of communication on how to do the job; time spent in conflict management and human resource development; management behaviors such as controlling production and planning.
Real managers replicates Asch • In these organizations, successful managers valued “desire for approval” over “desire to be right” • Selecting “social approval” makes sense for one’s career • Selecting “social approval” can destroy an organization when social consensus is not correlated with being correct.
Other “real managers” examples • The strength of weak ties • Tipping at restaurants is not related to quality of service, but is related to size of check (15%), group size (larger parties tip a lower percent) and social attraction cues (smiley face, personal note, compliments) • Alex Bavelas implemented “participatory management” in a toy company that increased productivity of one group. The intervention was discontinued because other groups were embarrassed. • Teacher evaluations focus on “student evaluations” (liking for the course) as opposed to student accomplishment • In evaluating a grad school ask: Where do the students get jobs after they graduate?
Real managers in elections • “I like Ike” DVD • Eisenhower was also an effective leader • Led largest invasion in history • Allied Supreme Commander • “Eisenhower answers America” ads • 12th greatest President (from Washington to Carter)
Real managers in election • Single best predictor of vote • Before 1960: voter’s party • After 1960: the voter’s image of the candidate and how much that voter likes (positive affect) the candidate • Competency of the candidate is not an issue • Mark Penn’s impressionable elites • Elites (academics, news media, college educated, high status) are more likely to vote on the bases of candidate image (since 1980) • Lower income voters vote on issues • Realistic politics (attempting to obtain what one needs) vs. status or identity politics (finding a positive social status)
Responses to real managers in elections • Realistic job interview of candidates • Press as watchdog • Campaign spending reform • France outlawed image-based political ads • Deliberative polling • Citizen conventions that discuss issues with experts as a resource • Involvement devices • Tax statements that state how much of your money is spent where • Restructure media presentation of issues consistent with guidelines in decision making lecture